Filtering by Tag: Winter

Adventures at the End of a Year

Can you believe it? Winter break has finally arrived!

I've been trying to take it easy. A possible second cold may be coming - my glands are swollen without explanation, so I'm trying to nap it off in the hopes of a fluke. I never get more than one cold a semester, especially when the first one happens so late to begin with (how can I catch another cold when I just got over the one from November? Well, let's hope it's a really good fluke.

Due to the looming vacation in a few days, I may not be able to blog again until the new year. So here's what's been going on lately. Boy, December is full of events!

Home Away From Home

Her father's clever way to add Piper to the fridge.
When the semester ends, I have a tradition of visiting my best friend in Lakeland. That small town is full of nostalgia; I had spent all four of my undergrad years at school there and every little inch of it (it seems) holds some kind of memory.

After college, my friend ended staying there, getting a job, then later marrying and having her first child.

The baby is new - and last Saturday, I met little Piper for the first time.

I'm not shy about my feelings towards kids: they scare me. I get really uncomfortable around them, I don't know how to act, and that makes for a lot of squirming and awkwardness... on my part. But there's something different about meeting youngins that belong to family and friends. I fell in love with Piper when I first saw her. Like her parents, she radiates calm (and at only a few months old too - wow!). She has big, luminous eyes like her mother and chubby cheeks like her father. She also likes to fart and laugh about it. Piper snatched my fingers up in a vise-grip and even sneakily took my bracelet with her during a quick diaper change.

My friend and I snacked on blue chips while enjoying the bright morning. We reminisced, as we always do, about our college lives - it's strange to think that, here we are, finally away from the dorms and sticky mosquito weather on campus. All the while, Piper happily stared at us with her intense gaze. I cracked a smile and she laughed.

The kitchen fridge was covered in words. I wandered into the room with it's little window overlooking the backyard, the "Bless This Cook" apron draped over the cleaning bottle, and the spices all lined up on a shelf like soldiers. There were poems all over the fridge, small chunks of phrases, but still just enough unused words for me to make my mark:

Weird and obscure? Check.

New Fantasyland 

So. Who hasn't heard the news about New Fantasyland? Over the pat few years, Disney has worked on expanding Fantasyland to include actual castles, more rides, and Princess-themed restaurants and entertainment.

When I went yesterday, only half of New Fantasyland was open, so I'm afraid I don't have too much to report. I went on The Little Mermaid ride - it was beautiful. The line itself is great too, though, because the interior is designed to look like Ariel's treasure cave. While waiting on line, you can help tiny animated crabs clean up the place after another storm blew through and messed up the treasure (at least, that's what animatronic  Scuttle claims when you're far enough in line to see him).

You board sea shells against a painted sunset backdrop (very, very pretty) and watch as the movie flies by in a flurry of animatronic moments. My shell got stuck at the scene where Eric and Ariel are about to almost-kiss in the boat - the workmanship on ride, down to those tiny details, are truly marvelous.

1000 Figment Fans

Guys, it's been two years since I joined Figment (and, uh, since came into being). It's been such a long journey.

I remember finishing my first semester in graduate school, utterly frazzled by teaching for the first time and still getting used to the hectic lifestyle of higher education. As I unearthed myself from a pile of grading, glowed - bright and squeaky-new - like an oasis. I knew that Figment would allow me to have fun with my writing and to experiment, outside of workshop, with the kinds of plots and structures that I wanted.

Birdcage Girl was born and very slowly, I began to make friends and read some fantastic work by other talented writers on the site.

But never did I think, way back then, that I would ever reach a thousand followers.

I remember celebrating one hundred followers - readers who liked my work enough to keep track of me - and the feeling that comes with gaining more readers never gets old. I'm honored and thankful to have so many lovely readers.

With that said, 1,004 fans, I'll do my best to continue spinning strange stories for you. Hold on tight.

The Next Installment of Lookout

Last week, the new issue of Tripod Cat came out.

If you've been keeping up, you've already listened to part one of my serial, Lookout. You've been introduced to the seaside town of Helium and quiet, eagle-eyed Lorelei who won the summer job of being strapped to a cloud as a lookout for the beach.

In this new installment, you'll be introduced to Sculley, a wind-peddler who has arrived in Helium with his uncle for a mysterious purpose. And he's a bit of a ladies' man (that's what he'd like you to think).

All issues of Tripod Cat are free; you can listen to them (and both installments of Lookout) via iTunes.

Winter Vacation Plans 

With all these exciting events still swirling around in my head, it's hard to keep track what's to come: family vacation. The thing is, we don't really go anywhere during winter break. Disney is always a must, but other than that, we usually sleep in late and recover from the semester's stresses, including preparing for the next semester to come. I know that sounds boring (besides the Disney part), but it's been the standard for a few years now. 

This year is different.

On Thursday morning, we're going to pack out suitcases in the car and head out for a two-week whirlwind adventure: we'll be in Miami to meet cousins and admire the Art Deco buildings, then off to St. Augustine to climb a lighthouse and search for ghosts on a tour. Lastly, we'll be back at good old Disney, exploring this year's holiday decorations at the hotels, drinking more LeFou's Brew, and exploring the Boardwalk's nightlife for the first time.

With that said, I still don't have a fancy phone. I'll be taking photographs, but my posts will have to wait until I get back. When I find Wi-Fi along the way, I'll do my best to check in!

If I can't reach you in time, make sure you have a Merry Christmas and a relaxing, exhilarating break!

The Sea in Winter

For some inexplicable reason, I miss the sea. I didn't know I did. This evening, as a I wind down from a long day of school, I'm thinking of nothing beyond the normal mundane worries of catching some sleep and wondering how much planning I'll be saving for Procrastination's capable hands.

And then, like magic, the television shows this surprisingly endearing commercial.

Suddenly I find myself looking around the living room, wondering if I have a shell that's waiting patiently for me to pick up. It's unlikely since I've developed a love for very tiny, broken shells. I have a small plastic bag with a handful of them inside, all specks of swirling colors that I pried out of the sand before the tide came in. But that was years ago - I'm not a beach person and I don't go very often. My idea of a fun beach trip is spending the evening there, when the sun is setting and the air is cool. I'd take off my shoes and walk into the ocean up to my knees, letting the waves soak my rolled up jeans. I wither in the unrelenting Florida heat (hence, the almost vampirelike preference in beach time), turning grouchy within minutes of sitting out under a cloudless sky.

When I was little, I used to jump fearlessly into the water and bob about, ducking under waves. My father would carry me out further and we'd laugh as the larger waves knocked us over. But then... I was a tidy kid. After getting seaweed stuck up my swimsuit and finally tired of sand caked into every curve, I stopped going in the water and switched seashell-hunting strolls instead. I didn't regret it (after all, I love pools, haha).

Anyone who has been following this blog knows how much I love commercials. When they are done well, I think that they can be pieces of art. So it was with this one - a cruise commercial, of all things! But as soon as it aired, I looked up from my laptop with an open mouth. The sea has a lovely, coaxing voice. So unlike the haughty, fickle oceans I've been writing about in a particular project of mine. Not that I don't see the beauty in the sea (who can forget), but the touching nature of the sea in this commercial made me think of those calm evenings on the shore.

Perfect, right? Thinking about the sea in the winter. But it's hot again here and the air conditioning was severely lacking in the school building today. If only a seashell with a ringer had been hidden under a mound of last semester's papers or tucked behind the coffee mix. But I guess that's what commercials like this are for :)

Tidbits: December Edition

Picture / Photo Find

Something I Did / Video I Watched Too Many Times

More like something I will do for the holidays. I love winter and am, like the next person, a big fan of cooing over plastic snowmen and candy cane floor mats. However, you won't find me sitting in front of the television, watching hours of Christmas movies. I'm just not that into them. I find them to be very corny and more predictable than most made-for-TV movies. Of course, there's always the classics - like Rudolph and Jack Frost, the lovely claymation creations that can make anyone smile. But I watch them in the summer months, or on a whim, and rarely during the time I should - this chilly month. 

However, there is one movie that I always watch, every year, ever since I was reunited with it during college. Haha, sounds epic, right. It's an animated film called The Nutcracker Prince (1990), a movie I saw when I was a child and fell in love with right away. Our VHS was lost to time and moving, just like some of my other favorite childhood things (most of which I've recovered thanks to Amazon, haha!). So now I own the DVD and thoroughly enjoy sitting down with my chin on my knees, big eyes shining. The animation style is gorgeous and fluid and the dreamlike quality to the setting just gets me every time.

Here's the description on the back of the DVD:

"The magic begins with a Christmas party at the house of aspiring ballerina Clara. Her godfather Drosselmeier brings one special gift: a nutcracker that is really his nephew, Hans, transformed into a doll by a curse of the evil Mousequeen. The nutcracker becomes a prince, who rules over the land of dolls, but will return to human form when the spell if broken. Join young Clara, whose new wooden nutcracker draws her into a glorious realm of adventure and enchantment."

Kiefer Sutherland (A very young one) plays the voice of the Nutcracker Prince - I would follow him anywhere, I think, if I ever heard his voice leak from a nutcracker's mouth, haha. The story is very mature for a cartoon; it takes the original, simple nutcracker story and takes it to the next level, bringing in an entire backstory and wondrous ending (makes me tear up and sigh). Clara, when dancing with the wooden nutcracker, even sings lyrics to the melody of Tchaikovsky's Waltz of the Flowers. That, my friends, is epic.

Now, the awesome part about all this is that someone uploaded the entire movie on Youtube. So please, if you want to enjoy an intricate, romantic, and whimsical rendition of the nutcracker story, then click away!

Quote from a Book I Love

Although I always have a huge pile of books to read, I wanted to spend a good portion of my break reading charming and adventurous stories led by very young, spunky protagonists. The more dated the story, the better. My model for finding such books is a favorite, The Little White Horse, so I tried to keep a look out for other novels that seemed to give off the same vibe. And so I came across The Aviary by Kathleen O'Dell. 

The description on the front flap does a great job at setting the scene:

"Twelve-year-old Clara Dooley has spent her whole life in the Glendoveer mansion, where her mother is a servant to the kind and elderly matron of the house. Clara has never known another home. In fact, she's confined to the grand estate due to a mysterious heart condition. But it's a comfortable life, and if it weren't for the creepy squawking birds in the aviary out back, a completely peaceful one too. 

But once old Mrs. Glendoveer passes away, Clara comes to learn many dark secrets about the family. The Glendoveers suffered a horrific tragedy: their children were kidnapped, then drowned. And their father George Glendoveer, a famous magician and illusionist, stood accused until his death. As Clara digs deeper and deeper into the terrifying events, the five birds in the aviary seem to be trying to tell her something. And Clara comes to wonder: what is their true identity? Clara sets out to solve a decades-old mystery - and in doing so, unlocks a secret in her own life, too."

I literally read through this book in day, staying up way too late to race to the ending. My eyes hurt so bad by the time I closed the book and drifted off to sleep. I didn't bother to check the time. I like how whimsical  and dusty this world is; there are secrets everywhere, and all of them kept me biting my nails. I won't give too much away, but I will say that there are ghosts. Plenty of them. And - I'd love to discuss this you've read it - I loved the ghosts so much that I wished the ending... ended a bit different. I kind of developed a crush on one of them and it was a shame to have to say goodbye and shut the book. Still, this really is a wonderful read. I'm so glad to have found it.

Here's a quote from the book:

"In spite of herself, Clara let out a scream, and then clamped her mouth shut. There, knocking on the pane with his sturdy black beak, was the white cockatoo, his sulfur-tinted head feathers raised high. 
Mustering her nerve, Clara unlatched the window and pulled it up, praying she would not frighten the bird away. But the cockatoo stood patiently until the sash was lifted, looked at Clara with his golden eyes, and pleaded in such a rich, melancholy voice that she was bound to him with all her sympathies: 
'Please? Please? Oh, please?"

A Writer Thing

Winter break usually is a strange time for writing. The semester ends with me staggering into my bed-nest of perfumed pillows, plushies, and thick quilts (I keep the ceiling fan on to pretend to simulate a cold winter night). My brain is constantly twitchy, poised for rest but not quite getting it. I called one of my friends the other day, making belated plans to spend the holidays together, and I could barely form sentences when I left a message on her machine. I listened to myself bumble and wondered if I'd ever recover fast enough to enjoy the short vacation until the next semester begins. I'm still seeing read from a lot of grading, haha.

So that leads me to writing. I'm itching to put my fingers to the keyboard and just write, write, write until I'm left hazy and smiling with a pile of words. But a ghostly headache has been following me to the laptop and after a few paragraphs, I have to give up and try to turn up the volume on my inspiration. It's different from writer's block, I think. I know how to handle that. This is probably sheer exhaustion. But I wonder exactly what I need to do to get some real rest. I've been relaxing, drinking lots of tea, wearing sweaters, gawking at the food competitions on the Food Network, and eating too much peppermint bark. 

I've even taken the air with a few wandering shopping trips. So, hmmm, any remedies to suggest? I'm sure this is only a temporary thing - I have to remember that school ended only a few short days ago, that break has only just begun. Time is strange around this time of year. Very heavy and slow. I like my winter breaks long, as long as you can stretch ribbon candy on rack. And I'm sure my writing rhythm will start up again. I just need to figure it out... or take a nap, haha.

Song I Can't Stop Repeating

"Lost and Found" by Katie Herzig

I found a great singer named Katie Herzig and I've been wondering what particular song to showcase. I've been listening to her album, The Waking Sleep, way too much in these past few weeks, but I can't say I regret it. Her music has such spirit and rhythm to it. Makes me want to write (always a good thing). One of her more well-known songs is called "Lost and Found" - and after hearing it the first time, I got major chills. It's the perfect song to listen to while writing one of my writing projects (top secret! haha). The lyrics and melody are stunning:

I know you left me standing there

Out of the calm of the coldest air

I don't believe the words you said
But I can't find the words I want
Oh, I can't find the words I want

If you were gone in another life
I don't believe I would just survive
I could feel you next to me
An escape from the world I'm in
Oh, I'm afraid of the world I'm in


Somebody found me here

Somebody held my breath

Somebody saved me from the world you left
If you're gonna cry my tears
If you're gonna hold my breath
If you're gonna let me see the sun you set
Oh, I am lost and found
Oh, I am lost and found

It's Winter Now?

The grass is green, the trees are heavy with leaves, and the sun is beating down on my back. Yes. This sounds like winter. And again, like every winter before, I'm disappointed in my lack of aching fingers and wind-raw cheeks.

It's amazing to see what kinds of snowy contraptions are created to help us Floridians realize it's actually winter. Without wreaths hanging from palm trees and Christmas lights burning up the night, we would continue walking through the days without any knowledge of the seasons. Some people, surprisingly, don't mind this.

I ran into a lady a few weeks ago and we fell into polite conversation in the grocery line:

Me: It's getting a little cooler out, isn't it?
Her: Oh, god. You're so right. It's terrible.
Me: What?
Her: I hate it! You know, last winter it was so cold! We had two whole weeks of it. I thought I was going to die.
Me: (After frowning a bit) But don't you find the chilly wind even a little helpful when you get hot flashes?
Her: (Blinks slowly) Oh. I... never thought of it like that. I guess you're right.

Small victories, ladies and gents.

This morning, we spent a few hours at the mall. I came away with a Little Twin Stars ring and a giant sticker of the same Lala and Kiki that I will be sticking on something very special - when it comes in the mail (More on that in future posts).

Every mall has a Santa to sit on. This mall was no different... except, well, they pulled out all the stops. The exhibit (I can think of no other word) is called the Ice Palace. The theme? Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I stood on the second floor, admiring the giant bubble palace of ice and snow. Photos of all the characters decorated the gates around the palace, and there were even life-size plastic figures of such characters as Lucy and Edmund, acting out scenes we'll see when the movie comes out. It was beautiful.

There were two difference spots to get your picture taken. One was shaped just like a throne that would hold the caboose of the evil White Witch. However, the other one was a cozy chair made just for Santa. As I watched the little kids run up to the bearded man and beg for gifts, I saw a teenager dressed in a Cinderella dress waiting in line.

I thought that she was working there at first. A weird crossover, but hey, it's possible. However, she moved with the line and did get her picture taken on the White Witch's throne. The Cinderella dress was full of sparkles, just like the crown on her head. I never related Cinderella to winter, though, now that I've seen the snow and ice side by side with the dress, I wonder why I never did. I thought the teen was very brave too. Wearing costumes is a lot of fun, but usually is the norm when you're at a Halloween party or at a convention. Seeing her wearing it out at the beginning of December was just plain awesome I'm proud of her.

So I think I got a bit of a good chill when I got home. The plastic snowmen and penguins outside amongst the flowers made me believe, for a few minutes, that there was frost on the ground. It was fleeting, I admit. But the stirring of hope was much appreciated. Time to break out the apple cider.

Hm. And make more progress on my manuscript. Heh.


Okay. So only a few days after posting this, I found that a bunch of people are buzzing about the Narnia Ice Palaces. They're invading malls all over with Aslan goodness. Here's an article all about it that I had to share.

Small world!

The "Old" and St. Augustine

I'll be the first to tell you that Florida isn't magical.

If that comes as a shock to you, I'm terribly sorry. We do have theme parks, most of which I admittedly love and will likely blog about. Beyond that, though, Florida is a very new state. I say new in broad terms: we don't have much "old" going on here.

In craft class, we were joking about ghost tours. Thinking about the possible tours that could spring up in New Tampa, the best we could think of was one that boasted haunted outdoor shopping malls. "And over here," Claire said, wiggling her fingers for good measure, "is the haunted Steinmart! It's three years old... creepy, right?"

In order to find the "old," one must travel to certain parts of Florida for the fix. St. Augustine is, without a doubt, one such place.

As I said in my previous post, the lot of us mosied over to St. Augustine for the awesome Other Words conference at Flagler College. The air was sharp with cold and we huddled together as we wandered up and down the tiny streets and hidden treasures. I was so happy to have finally put my sweaters to good use: winter is a rare breed of season around these parts. With a red nose and aching finger joints, I grinned and sighed happily at each gust of wind attempting to tear off my face. It was so delightful. I friggin' love the cold.

Most the conference was spent in the Ringhaver Student Center. We took turns manning the USF booth, advertising our MFA program, literary journals, and books for sale by our talented professors ;) The panels took place in comfy classrooms and some us even took a gander at the library (to print our pieces for Open Mic... if you were me and forgot them). I even walked away with a Bible-sized biography of Lord Byron from the free rack just inside the door. What luck!

The night readings were held in Ponce Hall, Flagler Room. Beautiful room. On either side of the podium, rooms were filled with old furniture and the most lovely paintings I've seen in a long time. There were even four paintings in the middle area, each a female character from a Shakespeare play. Super. The room was all gold, and wood, and filigree designs above our heads - I wish I studied more architecture so I could describe it better. Pictures, unless taken sneakily, weren't allowed. Over the two nights there, I listened to such poets and writers as Wil Haygood, Diane Wakoski, and Lola Haskins.

My discovery poet was Sarah Maclay. I perused the book fair and found her book, The White Bride, at the table. The mythic cover art drew me in and the imagery kept it in my hands. I presented at the comic book panel at the same time as her reading, but I did get to meet her later on that night. She was wonderful.

St. George Street is THE street to start for a plethora of unique shops and restaurants. The first night we were there, I somehow ate every little rice fleck left from a giant burrito. The interior of the Taco joint was the most interesting we came across: the walls were covered with drawings and messages written with Sharpie. Other foods included: my favorite staple tuna sandwich, pizza, pastichio, and a plate of scrambled eggs. All of the food was delicious. You can't go wrong in St. Augustine. Next time, in warmer weather, I want to try something sweet from the gourmet Popsicle shop. Yes, that's right.

Gloria and I fell in love with a shop called "Dragonflies" and at another Spencer's-like store, we all found something strange and wonderful to bring home with us. I couldn't resist taking home an inflatable desk version of Evard Munch's painting The Scream. It's always been a favorite of mine since I was little and seeing one in a favorite undergrad professor's office make me want one for my own. The little screaming guy now sits in my cubicle, reminding me of the horrors of grad school life :)

Among the other shops, I found a bead shop that I remembered when I went to St. Augustine in middle school. I remember not being able to find it on the way back and thinking that - oh my god - it simply disappeared! Well, it is still in business even after all these years, and I must have had a hard time finding it because the store was, really, a hole in the wall. A little square with a door. I squeezed into the shop and stared at all the beads. I even found the glass beads with little mushrooms inside them (I had purchased a cat version with a mushroom in it's stomach back then). What I didn't remember, with my rose-colored glasses, is that everything in the bead hole was expensive. I left empty-handed from the store, frowning at my friends and saying, "She wanted ten bucks for a ring!" Watch out, dear reader, for the fine print that says "$2 for every gram of metal."

St. George's Row was another place I remembered; it's an indoor hall that curves and it is lined with shops and other interesting things. The first picture in this post is from the magic shop. I went with my family again to St. Augustine not long after the middle school trip. My mom was experimenting with our hair at the time so she and I had matching banana-yellow hair with dark roots. The magicians running the store put on a few tricks that wowed my brother into begging for a card trick kit. We were all actually impressed until one of the magicians smirked and made a stinging comment about our hair (my fear of being blond again must stem from this).

The hallways had at least three different fortune-teller puppets (ranging from zombie swami to one-eyed pirate). Another machine tested the amount of love one has? I didn't quite get it, but there were levels of love like hot stuff, burning, mild, clammy, and my favorite: poor fish, try again. Featured to the right is the Merlin machine. After being fed 25 cents, the starving wizard will measure your personality with the shake of his hand. The light on his chest says that I'm "royal," but I'm going to be honest here and say that I didn't give him a quarter. Now that I'm looking at this picture, it seems like Merlin is staring at my chest. Hmm. Perhaps my reaction to that is the real test of my personality.

Now I'm back to the old schedule and the piles of work look especially mean. I guess they missed me. But it's invigorating to get a taste of something different, an extra flavor that adds a spring to your step and a light to your weary eyes (corny? Nah...). Breathing in the dust of another world makes me appreciate what we have now... and inspires me in my writing and life.

To work, to work!